A Blog on the Blog: Courage
--the ability to do something that frightens one
--strength in the face of pain or grief
Challenged recently by a passive-aggressive Republican blogger to have the “courage” to write my own blog, I was taken aback. Not by the challenge—I’m sure we’re all—Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Domesticated Animals--perfectly familiar with that particular species of conservative for whom the vague, indignant challenge is the standard response to any hint of open-mindedness or even simply positive thinking (“How can you thank the Firemen who put out that fire, when illegal immigrants are still pouring over the borders?!”-- true example! And there are plenty more on The Patch). I have some sympathy with the Republican proselytizer peddling his indignation in The Commonwealth—any dyed-in-the-wool, uncompromising conservative in Massachusetts is bound to feel a bit surrounded at times, and is in danger of developing the political equivalent of the “short-guy” syndrome. No, it’s not the constant shin-bashing that I am addressing here and now. It’s the use of the word “courage” which makes me pause.
How is courage defined today? Has that definition changed? Other than the outright misuse of the term by the Republican blogger (I am not frightened as I write this little blog, nor am I, in doing so, especially valorous, nor anticipating pain or grief), what do we mean when we use the term? More pertinently, given that my goal is to “blog about the blog,” are there recent articles and comments in The Patch that might contribute to the local evolution of the idea of courage? Yes there are!
Several recent articles in The Patch throw some light on how we think of “courage” right here, in Southwest Massachusetts, in 2012. In Dave Lenane’s uplifting article of July 3, entitled, “Wishing You a Happy 4th!” (), the author uses the term in the traditional, dictionary sense in which it is defined above. And so, thanking his fellow soldiers for their service, as is customary at the Fourth of July, Mr. Lenane rightly reminds readers that “courage is not the absence of fear,” and goes on to say, very movingly, “The Flag that flies over our nation, does so because of the courage of these men and women.” These would seem to be straightforward and easily accepted ideas; and while the subsequent discussion became a battleground itself, with some commenters denigrating soldiers as no heroes, thereby denying them even the most basic praise for their bravery, it was heartening to see that the vast majority of commenters supported the article, and by implication this traditional understanding and appreciation of courage.
A more recent article in which the word “courage” does not appear, but is noticeable for its absence, is Sara Jacobi’s, “REMINDER: Live Chat Tomorrow with Elizabeth Warren” of July 12. () A very lively discussion followed this story, too, and at one point a discussant compared Elizabeth Warren to John Kerry—and meant it negatively. That is, Kerry was accused of embellishing his war record. No documentation was provided to support the claim, and when pressed, the commenter did acknowledge that Kerry had served honorably (Kerry is a multiply decorated veteran of the Viet Nam War, with several purple hearts, and a bronze and silver star). But the facts of John Kerry’s consistent courage under fire (facts which still stand, after the fallout of the Republican-funded smear campaign against his candidacy for president (http://www.factcheck.org/republican-funded_group_attacks_kerrys_war_record.html), were never considered. And so, apparently, courage in battle, of the sort that very few of us can claim, is simply dismissed in discussions where partisanship takes over.
Sadly and not surprisingly, most references to courage emerge among the obituaries on The Patch. And these, too, are traditionally warranted. People facing cancer are indeed courageous. People facing the process of losing a loved one, and the after-effects of the loss, are truly courageous. And it is against this background that I find myself surprised by my conservative challenger who claims repeatedly that it takes “courage”, “personal courage” to write a blog.
Having accepted the challenge (again—I have written other blogs…), I must disagree. What I find, in the end, is a confirmation that partisan politics—being too narrow-mindedly in one group or another—makes you lose sight of yourself. And your dictionary.